Could patents help to reinvigorate the UK manufacturing sector?

Ownership of intellectual property and the ability for a business to protect its rights is an issue that has rapidly soared up the political agenda in both Europe and the UK.

Exporting has long been regarded as vital to reinvigorating the UK’s manufacturing sector and it’s likely that schemes such as the Government’s Patent Box initiative, coupled with broader plans for a Europe-wide patent could help to give the UK’s manufacturing sector a much needed boost.

Before we get too carried away though, don’t expect anything to change immediately. It’s worth noting that a European patent has been on the discussion tables since the early 1970s and although it’s clear from the latest developments that the politicians are coming closer to resolving their differences, it’s likely to be some time before such a scheme is fully implemented. Although such a move would undoubtedly benefit the ability of UK-based manufacturers to sell patented technology throughout Europe, it could be several years before we see the EC patent scheme fully up and running. Until that time they are dependent upon the levels of protection offered through the existing national and European legislation currently in place.

Export has long been viewed as vital to a successful manufacturing sector. The Government has recognised the importance of intellectual property ownership to businesses with its own scheme designed to help boost UK manufacturing.  Designed to reward businesses investing in research and development work, the Patent Box scheme is set to come into force next year. Set to offer tax breaks to manufacturers on profits from patented technology, it has been developed to help British businesses continue to invest in research development, despite the uncertain economic climate.

Innovation has always remained close to the heart of Britain’s manufacturing sector and owning a patent can help to contribute to the future success of the business. It’s worth remembering that patents relate directly to the legal ownership of an invention or manufacturing process. If a company legally owns the right to a design, then it effectively prevents its rivals from copying the idea – and in a global market this can mean a significant competitive advantage.

The importance of ownership of patents is something that is perhaps given much more precedence in countries like the US, where the well documented ‘patent war’ between smartphone manufacturers Samsung and Apple are being contested in the US court. The implications – with compensation being sought by Apple of over $2.5 billion coupled with trading sanctions, claims and counter claims all under consideration – perhaps case go some way to understanding the relationship between the reinvigorating the UK’s manufacturing sector, particularly when targeting the export market and the importance of attached to the ownership of intellectual property, particularly when trading overseas.

Howard Lock is a patent and trade mark attorney and the owner of Howard Lock Intellectual Property.

To find out how Howard can help your business call 0114 218 0653 or email: info@howardlock.co.uk. Keep up-to-date with Howard on Twitter @howardlockip

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